Can’t fault the second half effort1. Can’t fault the entertainment value. Can’t argue we didn't deserve to crash out either. Heroic last-ditch efforts aside, it was over the last four games that the ghost was well and truly given up, not this one match that sealed the deal.
Good God, but De Rosario is a machine. Considering he was clearly gassed and sputtering on a flat tire, he still managed to find the equalizer and set up most of what was good near the end. Despite an overall spotty performance from the #7 given what he had to overcome, if Ngwenya manages to have a little more desire and bundle that late sitter home, I think De Rosario immediately becomes the MVP front-runner with a Kirk Gibson, walk-off-homer performance, single-handedly willing United toward the playoffs.
Kitchen at d-mid should be a lock for next season. Covered a ton of ground, won balls, kept the ball well in tight quarters, played forward more than back, and even managed to dictate a bit of tempo. Smart money leaves Simms, who’s past his sell-by date, on the expansion draft table.
Off-season priority #1? A finisher. De Rosario can make magic. Pontius can get a handful of goals from wide. So can Najar. But when the chips were down and the chances were coming fast a furious, there was nary a cold-blooded assassin to be found. Davies? Please. I’m going to have more to say about this in a few days, but suffice it to say, I’m not sending any money to France any time soon. Wolff? Past it, not his game any more. Ngwenya? Failed pathetically at the time of asking. Brettschneider? Does a job, but that job isn’t poaching. Actually, just getting some forwards with reasonable first touches and the ability to hit a well-weighted pass would go some way to improving this team. How often (mostly in the first half, truth be told) were balls pinged to the front line either lost after a heavy touch or given away when the subsequent pass proved woeful?
Off-season priority #2? Speed and quality at fullback. Sure the likes of Korb and Woolard give you lots of effort and plug holes in the lineup, but they’re not starting-quality top-flight material on either side of the ball. Depth, yes. Starters, no.
Wait. Revise that. Off-season priorities #1-5. Learn to defend a freaking cross…
Bitch and moan all you like about those late non-PK calls (I certainly shouted at the screen as well), but the karmic balance was redressed. Considering the number of PK’s we’ve scammed this year, it was only fitting not to get one when we needed it most.
Questions for Ben. Why no adjustment in the first half to beef up the midfield presence to counteract the five that Portland packed in there? And why did the attack keep aiming right up the gut (packed with three central mids) rather than wide? Can’t fault the rolicking you must have given them at the half, but why so flat at the opening whistle? Why wait so long to make the final sub2? Why was Wolff on so long?
I generally like McDonald, but some of his decision-making (shot selection, pass selection, rough tackles) is terrible.
So that’s it then. We almost made it to the final game of the season with hope alive, but that awful run of results, unsurprisingly corresponding with the loss of Pontius, was the season-killer. There are seeds of hope for 2012 here, particularly with the young core put in place this season, but significant improvements need to be made around that core. Not so much in the depth, which is reasonable, but in a few areas that have proved glaring weaknesses all season. We’ll address those in the coming months3.
Now the first half effort, on the other hand…bloodless seems a weak description. ↩
Benefit of the doubt extends here. Olsen probably figured Ngwenya would fill his pants given the opportunity and so delayed bringing him on as long as possible. And so it proved. ↩
Post-FM 2012 of course. Pre-order on Steam now and it’ll download and be ready for your unlocking pleasure at 5pm tomorrow (Thursday). Oh dear, oh dear. Job #1? Having a go with United 2011, I should think. Possible post series ahoy! ↩